To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
Head East from Ijmuiden to Kiev visit Chernobyl, turn South until you hit the Black Sea. Stop look around then turn East and head home ...Easy, would we turn green?
Map of the 2010 tour ... Roll mouse over to jump to day (chernobyl is to the top of Kiev)
It's always a problem finding something new . So when the idea was hatch to visit the former Soviet country of Ukraine a certain tingle developed. (especially the ideas of visiting the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl and the abandoned City of Pripyat).
The next problem was finding someone else with the same ambition or someone who didn't know where it was or what it was like getting there. Country's like Poland where the roads and drivers are terrible (not as bad as India) and the return through Romania (where I vouched 5 years previous that I would never return). Using the Transfagarasan highway this time, would add to the joys of Romania described on Top Gear as the best road in the world, But hey that's adventure and we soon discover for ourselves.
Follow us on SPOT> (if you can't see all days select ALL the GO from left hand box)
Day 02 : Thursday , 10th June 2010 : Cottbuss, Germany
Miles : 483m/488m
Time : 9h 26m
Mov. ave : 65mph
a wet start from South Shields
Time for a brew in Germany, what a difference a day makes
A late start would make for a late finish and 480 miles would not be easy, motorway or no motorway. The ferry arrival was after 10am and it was 8pm by the time we had checked into the hotel. Temperature reached 34c at one point.
By the time we found a beer it was to late to eat except for a Kebab...... Which Neil admitted that after all these years on the planet he has never ate a Kebab. So first time for everything, maybe he wants to become an adapted Geordie and enjoy countless nights out in South Shields. He just needs to learn to drink faster and more.
Day 03 : Friday 11th June 2010 : Trzebinia, Poland
Miles : 288m/776t
Time : 9h55m / 4h47mov
Mov. ave : 60mph
Into Poland and only 10am on our second proper day
2 other Brits on tour and we all enjoyed the local food
The end of the line at Auschwitz II - Berkenhau
Toilet block - Berkenhau
Auschwitz - no escape
Work sets you free!!! (no not at Rathbones)
9am start and at 30c it would be another hot day, the plan was to push about 350 miles towards Ukraine via the mountains of Poland past Krakow. However I had other plans and the fact that Neil had never visited Auschwitz concentration camp would change the day. 200 miles covered by 1pm and sitting in an air conditioned McDonalds would see over an hour pass by chatting to 2 fellow Brits. Can you imagine 4 brits complain about the weather? Only this time it because it was too hot, signs on the motorway indicated 35c in the shade and 54c on the road.
It was hot and the visit in a bike suit to Berkenhau and Auschwitz would have us feeling like boil in bag victims.
Auschwitz would end up taking most of the day, and by the time we depart we where happy to find a hotel. A strange place just off the main road, a wonderful hotel with 2 guests. An excellent meal in town, another quiet hotel and we were the only 2 eating in the restaurant followed by a lift back off the waiter.
Day 04 : Saturday 12th June 2010 : Lviv, Kiev
Miles : 231m/1007t
Time : 7h:38m/
Mov. ave :45mph
Nice hotel - 2 guests
Into Ukraine at last and time to change money, and sterling not accepted
Another GS at the hotel in Lviv (Polish GS). To get here the porter rode on the back of my bike.
And another no helmet in Lviv??
The George Hotel,where Charlie and Ewan parked their bikes, in the hotel lobby on the Long Way Round
Inside the lobby of the George... It smelt like a bit em!!!
After the waiter slept in to make the only 2 breakfasts of the day made us a little late in departing, 9.30am and hot. The talk from the previous evening had been 230 miles easy be there by 2pm.....If only just the roads got worse and then the border into Ukraine 59 minutes of showing pieces of paper to officials , bag searching , back on the bike off the bike more forms and eventually across and then 1 hour added to the clocks.
Then as I had expected the roads really got worse and by the time we managed to land in Lviv it would be 6pm. The Grand Hotel lived up to its name and was fantastic, right in the square and after a couple of beers we would watch the England game. Oh yes that England game, a Saturday night 90p a pint and all is well, except for quality of the football.
Day 05 : Sunday 13th June 2010 : Kiev, Ukraine
Miles : 334
Time : 10h/6:36 moving
Mov. ave : 52mph
cooler start then 31c
A quick look around Lviv before leaving
a short video of L'viv
Neil sorts out his first problem with the Police
Where to begin.....Neil arrested for failing to stop for police officers who then finds illegal photos on his camera, the the camera is confiscated by police. At least the headline would do well for local Keswick Reminder Newspaper.
"Local businessman outruns Police with illegal photographs on camera"
Anyway it started well and after we were informed that it was 550 kilometers, with only the first 150km good then much construction, today would test us. As it happened it was cooler at 22c as we left and the road for 100 miles after we had left city where excellent nice long sweeping bends and in 2 hours we were one third into the journey at only 11am. All I wanted was to go back and do it again, and I wish I had. This turned out to be the best 100 miles of road on the trip.
Then it went pear shaped proper next 120 miles 5 hours , the police were on my case for speeding (85 in a 50) and overtaking on white lines and a zebra crossing. The corruption here is terrible he took my wallet and riffled it just as well most was tucked away. Okay the video he had of me was bad but he took my money and issued no receipt. Then within an hour stopped again, overtaking and failing to stop, this time all my money was tucked away and I entered a long debate in which he confiscated my licence and told me to appear in court in the morning, I called his bluff and he returned my licence, he wanted 50 euros but left empty handed. Honest this time we had done nothing wrong, he had been traveling the other direction, spotted us done a U-Turn and thought beer money...here we go, not this time.
Then 7 miles on stopped again, speeding, had me on a gun (70 in a 50, his gun was poor my GPS showed 91) and Neil. Mind you one small temporary sign is all that was displayed 2km back. This time 100 Euros same carry on wanted to drive me to bank got nothing. He then spotted Neil taking pictures of the police, the chief arrived and Neil had his camera taken. Not happy I begged for return which eventually it was minus SD card. Another plea to chief had card returned as long as I deleted photos of Police and he could look at them again to prove removal.
What a day.............. I have been in 3 Police cars.
Neil now eats kebabs and has been in trouble with the police!! well on his way to been accepted by Geordie's.
8pm by the time we are sorted and in a hotel room, hot tired but we have made it to Kiev. Why oh why!!!!
Day 06 : Monday 14th June 2010: Kiev, Ukraine
Miles : 0
Time : 0
Mov. ave :0
still too hot
Chicken Kiev in Kiev
St. Michael's Cathedral
Funicular railway to the beach
Home of the football team - Dynamo Kiev
Nice looking square
Independence square - scene of the orange revolution 2004, over 1 million camped here.
A planned day off to visit Kiev ...... and that went pear shaped also. The idea had been to visit Chernobyl Tuesday and book trip today. However we could not get permit till Wednesday and by the time it was sorted it was 2pm in O'Brien's Irish pub and the day was ticking away.
A mini sight seeing tour followed by more beer as we had a long lie in to look forward to on Tuesday. The night out would bring us our first sighting of rain.
Day 07 : Today is Tuesday ?? : still here in Kiev waiting
Outside Chernobyl museum..we wanted to learn, the museum is 100m from Chernobyl
Radiation counter, the real one would come the next day
Vehicles used in the clear up operation
Suit used in clear up
We wanted to learn the effects of having too much...
...and we found out !! He was still very friendly
The transport system left a lot to be desired
Just waiting, washing clothes, homebrewing coffee in the room on a Jetboil. The more leg slogging around the city especially the old town. Very interesting and a visit to the Chernobyl museum.
Day 08 : Wednesday 16th June 2010 : Chernobyl , Ukraine
Miles : 200m
Time : 10hrs
In a bus
Well you are warned, pay your money and take your chance
Passport check at the 30km exclusion zone
The briefing before the tour.... Now what I say you do, nothing else.... is that understood!!
he former football stadium, Chernobyl
Monument to the firefighters who died...most took 3 weeks to die from radiation
The reactor No4 in the background...this is as close as you get
Chernobyl No4 reactor
Pipyrat - the deserted town 52,000 people moved out in 2 hours ,1237 buses
. It was only built in 1970
The former gymnasium
Communist posters ready for the May day celebrations... Evacuated 2 days earlier
The library and gymnasium complex
The fairground left as it was, The radiation levels are quite high here.
Shoe lying on the gymnasium floor
Wise men, all the gear no idea.....Neil checks out the Geiger counter
A tree grows through the hotel floor
When the shop reopens...Neil in the supermarket
A 4 minute video from the day tour to Chernobyl and Pripyat
The one we had been waiting for, the trip to the worlds worst nuclear disaster. When we enquired at hotel reception we are greeted with why? It's not safe...is it?
Then the real problem pre registration with the authorities and security etc.This would cost us one day.We are informed where to meet in Kiev and wear no sandals or shorts and bring the passport and water. White suits will be provided, (no it never got this bad) and will lunch brought in from outside the 30km exclusion zone. Which as it happened was quite nice.
What a day.... hard to put into words, so many lives lost. So many families destroyed. Very moving and different. Not cheap at $160 but worth it. The day was fulfilling and very long last until 7.30pm
We were only allowed to take photographs of what was allowed, on one occasion we got out of the bus and only allowed to take photographs to the front, not left and not to the right. As our guide said at the briefing , from now on this is not a holiday, you will do as you are instructed by me.
Try this file in Goggle earth if you want to see the trip log from the GPS of the day to Chernobyl. You may have to right click and save to location and then open with goggle earth.
Day 09 : Thursday 17th June 10 : Odesa , Ukraine
Miles : 298m/1639t
Time : 7h35m moving
Mov. ave : 57mph/37ave
We worried about the safety of the bikes and the car park was full of nice toys...Kiev
Heading for Odesa the facilities disintegrated
Odesa and time for a Ice cream
Many outstanding monuments
The Black Sea
192 steps and the width at the bottom appears the same as the top
Rabbit walking !!!
A interesting classic BMW
An early start would make for an early finish, so they say. So at 7am we departed Kiev prepared for the worst, Police and poor roads. However the road was good dual carriageway all of the way and littered with about 12 police speed gun areas. 290 miles covered by 1.30pm was excellent. Sadly it was 3pm before we found a suitable hotel, and after Neil had been stopped by Police (it's just his face) for a document check.
The town of Odesa was at first sight poor, but once the center had been found it was beautiful with many magnificent building and statues. The once again an Irish bar came to the rescue proving beer and supper and the cost of beer ranged from 90p a pint to £2 or as high as £4 for imported. Wine and spirits both being very expensive.
Day 10 : Bucharest, Romania : Friday 18th June 2010
Miles : 346/1985t
Time : 11:42t\7.20m
Mov. ave : 32mph/47mov
hot 21 - 28.5c
Another look at the steps without people
Looking back from the steps
Close to the border, Ukraine..More horses used in Romania
Into Moldova and another GS...Neil listens to a Swedish guy passing on his past bad experience
The roads were very poor in Moldova
Time for more coke before waiting at another border, Moldova to Romania
Neil considers a change of bike
Finally Romania , what a day 3 countries long border waits
Finally outside hotel in Bucharest
340 mile almost 12 hours, it looks impossible to spend so much time getting nowhere but with the poor quality of road and 2 bad border crossings it is very possible. The first 150 miles to the Ukraine/Moldova border in 3 hours 30m then 3hours to complete 30 mile and the 2 border crossings. It is beyond belief what so many people can do with a passport and V5 . What a carry on more checks than I have time to document. Well especially as England are playing a group match in the world cup.
We attempted to find a hotel on the outskirts of Bucharest but no luck, it's a bit like shanty town. By the time a hotel was found and check in completed it was 8pm and the end to a long day, another one to remember.
Day 11 : Saturday, 19th June 2010 : Sibiu, Romania
Miles : 194
Time : 7:45t/4:45m
Mov. ave :28mph
hot warm rain cold
Well it said closed, However
It soon got interesting
On the way up
At the top at 2050m
and on the way down
A touch of the white stuff
a short video of the road
Watch Top Gear drive it ....the best road in the world
Then it got black, proper. The car nearly lost the mattress. Lucky we were down and almost finished for the day
GPS screen shot ....Follow the pink line.On the way up
At the top
And on the way down
When we left home we had 2 targets to achieve, visit Chernobyl and ride the Transfagarasan highway and today we completed that task. The Transfagarasan highway was described by Top Gear as the best road in the world. Not sure about that but I have never been on a better one and don' think I ever will.
Day 12 : Sunday 20th June 2010 : Budapest, Hungary
Miles : 337 / 2516t
Time : 6h35m/9h
Mov. ave :38mph
up to 28c
A spot of bike racing on the way
One more tax disc for the collection 4euros and a waste of time..this time Hungary
Fathers day and we had a lie in 8am and we relied on the hour to be gained at the border to save the day. The roads were a lot better than I remembered from 5 years back and the the police presence not as powerful, plus oncoming cars have learned to flash you to warn you.
The pace not electrifying as the speed limit is only 30mph through the villages and towns, and when the gap between them can be less than a mile it appears to make time stand still.
The 200 mile to the border took over 5 hours, then once into Hungary the next 30 mile would add over one hour what a painful journey, thankfully the last 100 mile was covered on the motorway and provided a chance to burn some fuel and cool down.
Day 13: Monday 21st June 2010 : Maribor , Slovenia (about)
Miles : 216
Time :3h19m/ 4:13t
Mov. ave :65mph/51mph
New chairlift from the hotel Habakuk , Maribor
Nice hotel ...Habakuk Maribor
Okay it looks daft but we have all done it...pool time Maribor
All the fun of the fair
Top station ...Plenty at the top even draught beer
Leave early and head for one of my favorite spots at Maribor was the plan. Started well and then we hit the rain ....Proper rain big drops and the wind. Just as well we completed this stretch on the motorway.
So then arrive at the lovely Habakuk hotel in Maribor and time to relax and use the facilities, to which Neil revealed another first he has never been in a sauna, another first for Neil .
Day 14 : Tuesday 22nd June 2010 : Ruegensburg, Germany
Miles : 292/3024
Time : 4:32m/6:15t
Mov. ave :64
20c - 13c - 22c dry miles
The mandatory photo outside hotel Habakuk
The town of Regensburg...Excellent
Lets head for home and 300 miles in the right direction. Regensburg was a gem what a fantastic old town.
Regensburg has a wonderful old town. If only we had not got lost on the evening. The old town was like a maze.
Day 15 : Wednesday 23rd June 2010 : Rudeshiem, Germany
Miles : 239
Time : 3:31m/3:50t
Mov. ave :67mph
up to 26c and sunny
Oh that hotel again , Lindenwirt , Rudhesheim...you can sleep in a wine barrel
At least everyone was happy until Sunday
Today we opted for fastest finish as England had their final qualification game in the world cup. By now I was sure that England would have qualified and not required the last game. Oh how wrong, so lets move it and get hotel sorted and reedy for the match.
The run was easy and fast , only one short stop for fuel and arrival to early at 1pm. Would have Neil fast asleep by 1.30pm and no signs bog getting me drunk for the match.
Early to bed tonight as 270 mile dash for the ferry tomorrow. An excellent place to stop for the last night and the town was the busiest I have seen it. The football was won, as was the German game and everyone went home happy, well at least until Sunday when the 2 teams meet in the Quarter final.
Day 16 : Thursday 24th June 2010 : Ijmuiden, Holland (ferry Home)
Miles : 274/3548t
Time : 4h22m/6h5m
Mov. ave :63mph
sunny up to 29c
Ferry to Bingham, after 1 mile you get a rest
Mobile office mission complete, outside chippy Ijmuiden
Breakfast at 7 and off for the 270 miles to the ferry port of Ijmuiden. Away for 8 and after 1 mile it's off the bike and on the car ferry to Bingen across the other bank of the Rhine. After that it was good going and the road on the German side was very quite, as if the whole country had celebrated to much the night before.
Once across the border into Holland the traffic as usual was very busy but steady away and by 2pm we are sitting outside the chippy in glorious sunshine.
Conclusion ....Well it's been on the drawing board for about 6 years and finally done, a bit harder road miles than I thought and a changing culture shock in Ukraine , not for the people but for the heavy handed manner in which the police treat you, Chernobyl was touching not so much for the power station but more for the people who lost their lives so painfully slow. When you see the photographs of people affected and the time it took to die in complete isolation, The the abandoned town of Pipyrat at living so close and not informed off the disaster until 2 days after and then emptied in 2 hours and told just to pack a suitcase for 2 days as you will be back .
Back years later when the Army has emptied and looted your home, all houses where emptied of food etc as a health hazard and it will never be lived in again, the authorities knew this. Stories from former children packing their favorite toy and leaving the rest behind.
All in all a 3500 mile voyage of discovery, one that pushes you into new cultures and makes for a true adventure.The roads could have had a few more bends and less potholes. The people however were very friendly and curiosity in the small towns and villages would cause them to stare. You often wonder how many pass their door? It was the big trails bikes that give reason for curiosity.